President Trump is directly getting involved in the legal saga involving adult film star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, for the first time as he joined a filing by his lawyers on Friday. The commander in chief’s lawyers filed two motions. In one, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is alleging that Clifford violated a confidentiality agreement at least 20 times, meaning she is liable for damages of at least $20 million. Trump formally joined the second motion, which seeks to move the case from state court in Los Angeles to federal court.
When Cohen paid Clifford $130,000 weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006, he did so through Essential Consultants LLC, a limited liability company he set up to make the payment. But under the agreement, Clifford would have to pay Trump directly for any violations to the agreement. The latest move by Turmp’s lawyers comes a week after Clifford filed her own lawsuit attempting to invalidate the agreement that she says is void because Trump never signed.
Why does Trump want the case moved to federal court? One is the fact that federal courts are more likely to push for conflicts to be resolved through arbitration rather than open court. The more conspiratorially minded could also point to the general view that federal judges, who are appointed by the president, are more conservative than elected state judges in California.
Clifford’s lawyer dismissed the latest filings as only the latest effort to silence his client. “The fact that a sitting president is pursuing over $20 million in bogus ‘damages’ against a private citizen, who is only trying to tell the public what really happened, is truly remarkable,” Michael Avenatti, Daniels’s lawyer, said in an emailed statement. “We are not going away and we will not be intimidated by these threats.”
Earlier Friday, Avenatti said six other women have come to him claiming they had affairs with Trump and two said they signed nondisclosure agreements. He also said Clifford had been physically threatened to remain silent about her relationship with Trump. Avenatti refused to elaborate, only saying Clifford would provide more details in a 60 Minutes interview that is set to be broadcast on March 25.